|Home of the Marvelous Bread Basket Breakfast (French Brunch):
served with marmalade, mulberry jam, honey, salted butter
(and sometimes homemade chocolate sauce instead of the jam).
Having just done a virtual eating tour of the midwest (and Colorado) for several weeks, I’m more than ready to be back in Saigon, including my routines and my exercise. My smooshy Thanksgiving face demands it! But all those (absurdly) generous portions and cheesy variations have me thinking about one restaurant in particular in HCMC – One with some of the the most interesting (Western) brunches in town. To those of you in the D1 brunch loop, I am, of course, referring to Au Parc.
For me, there are three serious reasons to eat at Au Parc: the bread, the brunch, and the salads.
Vietnam already produces a notably fantastic selection of breads and pastries, a welcome legacy of French Indochina (leading directly to one of Vietnam’s best inventions: the Banh Mi sandwich), but Au Parc takes it to the next level. Check out that bread basket at the top of the post, or the side (prelude to a salad) shown above. This, people, is what the intersection of quality, quantity, and variety looks like.
|Bagel sandwich with sprouts, tomato, lettuce, salmon, and labneh (a turkish cream cheese).|
There are some standouts. The rye is really good. The bagels are top-notch. And the flatbread (the closest thing to a decent tortilla I’ve found in HCMC) is remarkable. Au Parc presumably knows their strengths, and they go to great lengths to make sure as much of their menu is bread-heavy as possible: if it doesn’t come in, on, or between bread, the bread comes on the side. There’s no getting away from it, and, frankly, why would you do that? It’s great bread, and satisfying in a way that rice might never be to me.
|The East-West wrap, featuring fishcake with beetroot, wasabi ginger mayo, & spring onions. I’m in love with this flatbread!|
They also do a series of healthy open-faced sandwiches. Their house dressing is a deliciously tangy and light oil and vinegar preparation (I think… their online menu is different than their in-house menu and looks to be missing a number of things that are spelled out explicitly in the restaurant… including the entire section on open-faced sandwiches. So either they changed their menu radically in the last four days, or they’re just different menus).
|The open-face Smoked Salmon with capers, onion, and labneh cheese on toast, and side salad.|
These brunches are for a single person. PROTIP: If you come, plan on staying for at least an hour. There’s a lot to get through, and it’s ALL worth it.
|The Turkish: Feta, olives, fresh tomatoes, hummus, fresh fruit and turkish tea, complete with a bread basket and toppings.|
Some days you just need to eat until you can’t move, then roll home and into bed for a mid-day nap. It’s helpful if that food is healthy, fresh, and delicious (although this is by no means a prerequisite, as I’ve demonstrated in the past, oh so many times), and Au Parc’s brunch is a veritable wonderland of food.
|English Breakfast: 3 eggs in any style, sautéed potatoes with onion and rosemary (Plus… BREAD).|
Erin, my reliable brunch partner before she moved back to America, was a ‘basics’ kind of person – and didn’t like the rosemary potatoes. Insert appropriately shocked emoji faces here. I thought they were amazing.
BTW: I’m looking for a friend to go to new restaurants with me! Is it you? It should be you. Let’s go.
|Californian Breakfast: Home-baked granola, home-made yogurt, and fruit (along with all that bread, natch).|
|New York Brunch with Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict on toasted brioche.|
This brunch is so excessive that it actually makes me a little embarrassed – it’s like having a Chicago brunch in Vietnam. American portions, European decadence. At least three distinct places where bread is served, with a possible total of 6 or 7 different types of bread in one meal. Leave some time for this meal – it’s meant to be appreciated.
Here, instead of talking more, just look at the menu:
Ok, so the bottom line is that they’re absurdly comprehensive. You get a little of everything, and the service is quick and relatively prompt (although I must say the one time I’ve splurged on this – at almost 15 USD it’s relatively expensive for a single meal – it was extra busy and I didn’t get my fresh fruit at the end. Not that I could have fit it in).
If you’re looking for decadence and a relaxing atmosphere where they’ll provide you with food until you can’t eat any more, this is the place for you.
But it’s not all bread – or at least not all the time…
Holy WUT. I came for the bread. I got hooked on the bread. And then… then I started digging (literally, look at the size of those things) into their Original Salads section, and f*%@ing f&^#, if these aren’t the best, most interesting salads I’ve ever had. Sorry for the salty language, Grams, but they’re just that good.
|Beirut: Lentils, roast pumpkin, bulgur, parsley, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate dressing and herb labneh.|
SHUT YOUR FACE, AU PARC. Roast pumpkin? Come here and get in my mouth.
|Golden Horn: Wheat berries (omg) with chicken, corn, pumpkin seeds, and cranberries, with citrus vinaigrette.|
Cripes. Stahp. STAHP.
Ha ha just kidding don’t do that. Keep going – I haven’t tried them all yet.
|Jericho: Pearl barley and red beans with roasted vegetables, beetroot, spinach, raisins, cranberries.|
Other original salads I haven’t tried, but will someday, include:
- Almost Breakfast: bacon and poached egg with fresh baby spinach and croutons
- Mama’s Beef: cumin and ginger beef, confit garlic, roasted tomatoes, snow peas, watercress and olive mint dressing
- Tel Aviv: Warm coriander chicken with avocado, cashews and creamy dressing
- Sea Mango: Salmon and mango on baby spinach and greens with citrus vinaigrette
- Nutty Avocado: prawn, avocado, pomelo & hazelnut salad with citrus dressing
- Malta: marinated BBQ squid with roasted red peppers, chick peas, and baby spinach
- Insalata di Pasta: pasta salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and roasted red peppers
- The Pulse: Lentil Salad with artichokes, home-roasted tomatoes and Feta cheese
Wow. Please make these, and tell me how they turn out. They sound universally great.
Ok, now that we’ve all been reduced to our slobbering, drooling reptile brains, let’s shake it off and think about how thankful we are that Ho Chi Minh City is such a meeting of the culinary minds… it’s a fantastic city for virtually any kind of meal, from expensive to cheap, east to west, basic to refined. For now, I’m going to just avoid looking at this post for awhile because it makes me too hungry (again, pomegranate dressing. And wheat berries. That is all).
If you get a chance, I highly recommend Au Parc. The restaurant skillz on display are impressive, and reflected across the company’s holdings, which include Khoi Thom, The Refinery, and Propaganda (among others). Service, food, and atmosphere are all highly focused and clearly the product of a lot of thought, coordination, and effort on the part of everyone, from managers down to servers.
Bravo. Now more bread, please!
Have you eaten here? What must I try on my next visit? Leave suggestions in the comments!